Truck driver fatigue is a serious and ongoing problem in the United States, accounting for 72,000 crashes, resulting in 44,000 injuries and 6,800 fatalities in 2013. With approximately 13% of truck crashes involving drowsy drivers, it’s essential to take preventative measures for driver fatigue. Below, we’ve identified the factors that contribute to driver fatigue and explored 3 ways to help truck drivers reduce drowsy driving.
Contributing Factors to Driver Fatigue
According to the CDC, commercial truck drivers are more likely to fall asleep at the wheel. One of the primary factors that contribute to drowsy driving is a lack of sleep. With over 30% of American workers from 30-64 years of age being short of sleep, it’s not surprising that truck drivers are regularly driving tired. Truck drivers need to get enough sleep and develop good sleeping habits if they want to avoid drowsy driving.
Other contributing factors to driver fatigue include the time of day when driving, the individual’s driving experience, and the driver’s physical and mental characteristics. Although different individuals have different levels of susceptibility to drowsiness, fleets need to help drivers recognize the signs of drowsy driving and proactively look after their drivers.
As Peter VanDyne, Risk Control Director at Liberty Mutual Insurance noted, “An employee’s decision making and thought processes can be impaired while he/she is drowsy. By planning ahead, a company can reduce the risk of driver fatigue and related accidents and better protect its employees and property.”
Helping Truck Drivers Reduce Driver Fatigue
1. Encourage Open Communication
While fostering open communication seems like simple advice, unfortunately, in the trucking industry, drivers don’t often tell their managers if they’re feeling too tired to drive.
Steven Garrish, Senior Vice President of Regulatory Compliance and Safety at SleepSafe Drivers, revealed that “In this industry’s culture it’s certainly not very macho to admit you’re tired. But I’d say the best most forward-looking companies would regard the driver as the captain of the ship and will usually defer to the driver’s judgment on being tired.”
Mark Murrell, co-creator of the Best Fleets to Drive For program, has evaluated many fleets and agrees that smart companies implement fatigue management programs that work for drivers.
“The smarter fleets are stepping up and figuring out ways to help look after their drivers,” he says. “They are using fatigue management programs to help drivers realize their potential without putting all the emphasis for performance on the driver. Helping drivers understand what makes them tired, like maybe they aren’t at their best early in the morning, can help in scheduling them on more physiologically compatible operations.”
Another proactive way fleet management companies can take care of their drivers is by offering them training programs that include safety lessons. Companies can also approach fatigue management by working with drivers to improve their lifestyle, health, diet, exercise, and encourage conscientious self-management.
2. Monitor Drivers with New Technologies
Today, there are many tools and devices that can help assess a driver’s susceptibility to drowsiness. Ron Knipling, truck safety researcher and author of Safety for the Long Haul, encourages companies and drivers to consider using perclose eyelid monitoring systems and lane tracking devices to help prevent driver fatigue.
Another important (and legally-mandated) piece of tech that should be in every truck is an electronic logging device (ELD). ELDs help track a driver’s hours and duty status, that can be viewed by their employer. If a driver isn’t taking mandatory breaks or has exceeded their hours of service, their manager is able to address this and help tackle issues that are causing the overtime.
Although there may be a bit of friction between companies and drivers with the implementation of these technologies, with open communication, hopefully drivers will be able to see how they can help keep them safe.
3. Stick to a Schedule
Although many drivers don’t always have regular schedules, it’s important to try to stick to consistent work shifts. Constantly changing a driver’s routine can have a significant impact on their ability to sleep and remain well-rested.
According to “Trucker Mike” from Trucking Truth, fatigue in truck driving is common because “There is absolutely no cycle, no rhythm, and no schedule for when you sleep. Drive when you have to, sleep when you can.”
While Mike’s words represent the reality for many drivers, fleet companies can turn this around by minimizing scheduling changes. In the event of a schedule change, drivers should be given as much advance notice as possible so they can readjust their routines.
The long and short of it is, fleet companies need to take a proactive approach to help their drivers manage fatigue levels. By fostering open communication, monitoring drivers with new tools and technologies, and helping drivers stick to a proper schedule, fleet companies can reduce drowsy driving and help make the roads a safer place.
If you’re interested in helping your drivers reduce fatigue, learn more by requesting our fleet management demo. Fleet Management software can help drive efficiencies across your fleet and optimize logistics to promote a better routine for your drivers.
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